Having tasted Misha’s Vineyard’s inaugural release, I was interested to see how their mission statement – No Compromises – was holding up (always a bold statement given the vagaries of weather and markets…) Misha is certainly a tireless promoter of her brand, and even the most casual glance at their website shows how carefully though out and positioned the brand is. Olly Masters is still at the winemaking helm with Robin Dicey as consultant viticulturist and it is clear the last three years have been busy ones, with expansion across both the range and export markets.
2011 Misha’s Vineyard The Limelight Riesling, Central Otago $28.50
A lovely, rather pretty wine displaying aromas of lime, sweet blossom, and chalk. The palate is light-bodied and fresh with citrus, green apple, honeydew melon and a honeyed richness. Fragrant and crisp with a nice juiciness to the fruit and finishing with an attractive stoniness, this is nicely balanced and has good length.
2011 Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Pinot Gris, Central Otago $27.95
Softly fragrant nose with fresh peach, creamy hay, ripe pear and apple brûlée laced with subtle spiciness. Off-dry with crisp, balanced acidity and an attractive creamy texture. The palate has ripe stonefruit and some light citrus, quite generous in style and with a lengthy finish. Relatively simple and pure yet not without character, this is an accomplished and enjoyable wine.
2011 Misha’s Vineyard The Gallery Gewürztraminer, Central Otago $31.95
Displaying an exotic nose of rosewater, brioche and mandarin, the degree of floral sweetness reminds me of standing in a rose garden on a hot day. Aromatic and complex without being overtly heady, the style is off-dry with good fruit intensity (ripe nectarine, citrus and fed apple plus some herbal/hoppy undercurrents) and a pleasing oiliness to the texture. Very rich but firm acidity holds it all together and stops it from being overblown, adding a slight stoniness to the finish. A smidge of alcohol peaks through but what lingers is fruit.
2008 Misha’s Vineyard The Gallery Gewürztraminer, Central Otago $NA
This was my favourite from the initial release and a bottle was kindly included this time round too. A musky nose with lychee, guava, Turkish delight, this is not as intense or spicy as the 2011 but certainly still aromatic. Palate is a touch sweeter than the ’11 but shows similar balance between rich fruit and nervy acidity; bottle age has added a waxy, creamy texture. A citrus finish with some jasmine and a certain pepperiness. Still a whoosh of alcohol on the finish but holding together well. Good to see as shows the family likeness and illustrates progression made in complexity and intensity.
2009 Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir, Central Otago $47.95
Quite a closed nose with toasty forest floor alongside lush dark fruit and higher floral notes. Not highly aromatic but plenty going on. Fruit is perfumed and exotic and the palate is juicy with plummy dark fruit and cooked tomato paste. Oak is coffeeish and lends a rather tough edge, perhaps exacerbated by the fruit being so sweet and lush. Palate is more red fruited than the nose, and the acidity is good and fresh, balanced the spicy depth of fruit. Good intensity and length and opened up quite nicely with time in the glass but I found the oak a little obvious and rather without charm.
2009 Misha’s Vineyard Verisimo Pinot Noir, Central Otago $62.95
Spicy, dark fruited nose with liquorice and brambles, quite exotic by comparison to the High Note. The palate is a distinct step up in richness and intensity with a similar lush, sweet fruited palate; strawberry and raspberry add intense fruit sweetness, supported by ripe cherry. Handles the oak better – still very toasty but more melded to the fruit. Acidity is firm, tannins soft and ripe, there’s some nice silkiness and mineral texture to the palate plus good length. Overall, a more harmonious wine showing better balance.
Misha has a capable pair of hands in Olly, and the wines are showing pleasing progression: the whites eminently drinkable and the pinots deliver what many, especially export markets, would expect from high end Central Otago pinot noir. Possibly there’s need to dial the oak back a bit on the High Note pinot; as while I do appreciate they are making a bold, intense style and presumably they’ve added a bit of oak to temper all that fruit, it just sits too much to the fore instead providing an anchoring backbone. Speaking recently to Olly on this topic in general, I am sure as the vines mature this will be less of an issue.
This is a slick label, very carefully thought out and certainly thoroughly marketed. Misha and her crew are undoubtedly savvy operators who have a careful eye on at burgeoning Asian market and label is plainly oriented in this direction. I admire their diligence and planning, not least as we see so many labels cross our paths where the actual marketing and selling of the wine seems to be a bit of an afterthought at best. The balance must be struck somewhere as no matter how much fun it is or how noble are one’s winemaking intentions, presumably in the end most people are making wine in order to make money.
However, I do wonder whether you also have to be careful not to engineer the soul out of the stuff. Misha’s Vineyard is creating high quality, very drinkable wines, but also ones that at this stage don’t really exercise the brain, or even the heart, all that much. Fair enough perhaps, as not everyone wants to have to think about what they’re drinking and god help us, there’s no need to be revolutionary just for the sake of it. But the loveliest wines are those that deliver deliciousness alongside character, and the latter is something you can’t really plan for or apply KPIs to. That’s the real challenge for meticulously managed labels – to keep the essence of what makes wine special alive. And that’s a compromise Misha’s Vineyard will need to be mindful of as their vintages progress.